THE SOUND OF waves just behind me filled my ears. My bare feet on the hot sand made me feel vaguely uncomfortable. I gently lifted them up and down, like a comical kind of marching: left, right, left, right, up and down, up and down. My arms joined in, swinging forwards and backwards in time. The twelve days of Christmas were always significant in our family story, give or take a day or two. In the demarcation of our coastal life, the things that preceded and followed our annual trip to the beach – the buying, the wrapping and unwrapping of gifts, the packing and unpacking of bags – coincided, oddly, with the re-boxing of unwanted presents and the release of our urban bodies set free by the sea.
It had been a number of years since any kind of ritual had freed my body – not since my diagnosis five years earlier with Parkinson’s disease, a diagnosis that seemed only to demarcate the end of my life – of a life – and certainly of my coastal life. After a few years of shut down – of closing off from the sun, from the sky and expansive air – I had returned, with my sister and other family members, to unwrap myself, a different sort of gift, shy, tentative, among the clusters of kids and their still unquestioning belief in their body’s autonomy and grace.
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